Pakistan launches special cybercrime unit under controversial PECA law, shifts role from FIA

Pakistan launches special cybercrime unit under controversial PECA law, shifts role from FIA
A man explores social media on a computer at an internet club in Islamabad, Pakistan, on August 11, 2016. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 03 May 2024
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Pakistan launches special cybercrime unit under controversial PECA law, shifts role from FIA

Pakistan launches special cybercrime unit under controversial PECA law, shifts role from FIA
  • The agency will be led by director general with 15-year experience in digital forensics or public administration
  • Pakistan’s information minister recently spoke against online harassment, emphasized upholding of digital rights

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has established a new investigation unit under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, tasked solely with focusing on cybercrimes in the country, a role previously performed by a dedicated wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

The PECA law was originally enacted to combat various forms of cybercrime, including cyber terrorism, unauthorized access, electronic fraud and online harassment, aiming to enhance the security of cyberspace for users and businesses.

However, the law stirred controversy, particularly because its provisions were seen by critics as tools that could potentially curb freedom of speech and suppress dissent.

These concerns were also validated by instances of journalists being booked under the law, with courts raising objections regarding its application.

“There shall hereby stand established the National Cyber Crime Investigation Agency (NCCIA) to exercise jurisdiction under the Act and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) shall cease to perform functions as designated investigation agency under the Act,” said a notification taken out by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication on April 24 that referred to the PECA law.

“All personnel, cases, inquiries, investigations, assets, liabilities, rights, obligations, privileges and matters related thereto or connected therewith subsisting immediately before commencement of these rules in respect of the defunct cybercrime wing of the FIA shall stand transferred to the NCCIA,” it added.

The new investigation agency will be led by a director general who will be appointed by the government for two years.

The individual performing the role will have at least 15 years of experience “in the field of computer sciences, digital forensics, cyber technology, law, public administration, information technology, telecommunication or related fields enabling him to deal with offenses under the Act.”

The notification said the FIA’s “defunct” cybercrime wing would continue to operate until suitable appointments are made to run the new agency.

Pakistan’s information minister Attaullah Tarar announced only a day ago that the government was setting up a new authority to end online harassment and uphold the digital rights of the people.


Pakistan PM wishes US President Biden swift recovery after COVID-19 diagnosis

Pakistan PM wishes US President Biden swift recovery after COVID-19 diagnosis
Updated 6 sec ago
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Pakistan PM wishes US President Biden swift recovery after COVID-19 diagnosis

Pakistan PM wishes US President Biden swift recovery after COVID-19 diagnosis
  • Biden said earlier he would consider ending his reelection campaign if diagnosed with serious medical condition
  • There have been concerns about the 81-year-old president’s health, with many Democrats asking him to step aside

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday wished United States President Joe Biden a swift recovery after the latter tested positive for COVID-19 and began experiencing mild symptoms of the disease.

Biden, who is campaigning for reelection, had to cut short a trip to Las Vegas and flew to his beach home in Delaware to isolate.

The 81-year-old Democrat was reported to have contracted the disease shortly after saying he would consider ending his reelection campaign if diagnosed with a serious medical condition.

However, before entering self-isolation, he assured reporters he was feeling good.

“Wishing President Biden @POTUS swift and complete recovery from Covid,” Sharif wrote in a social media post in response to the development. “Good wishes.”

The infection comes at a critical moment for Biden’s campaign, with the president seeking to show he is up to the job after a disastrous debate performance against rival Donald Trump sparked concerns about his health and calls from some Democrats for him to step aside.

It is also the latest development in a tumultuous few days in an already frenetic White House race that saw Trump survive an assassination attempt at a campaign rally.

Biden was forced to cancel a speech to a union representing Latino workers who will be crucial for his election bid, having attended a campaign event earlier in the day and given a radio interview.

His spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was vaccinated and boosted, was now taking the Covid medication Paxlovid and “continues to carry out the full duties of the office while in isolation.”

With input from AFP


Pakistan advises its nationals to take precautions amid violent student protests in Bangladesh

Pakistan advises its nationals to take precautions amid violent student protests in Bangladesh
Updated 17 July 2024
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Pakistan advises its nationals to take precautions amid violent student protests in Bangladesh

Pakistan advises its nationals to take precautions amid violent student protests in Bangladesh
  • Tens of thousands of students have been holding nationwide protests since early July against public sector job quotas
  • PM Hasina has labeled protesters “razakar,” term for those who allegedly collaborated with Pakistani army during 1971 war

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka on Wednesday advised Pakistani students in Bangladesh to take necessary precautions and stay away from student protests in which at least six people have been killed and scores injured in the last 24 hours. 
Tens of thousands of students have been holding nationwide protests since early July against public sector job quotas, including a 30 percent quota for family members of freedom fighters from the 1971 War of Independence, amid high youth unemployment. 
Demonstrations intensified after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, refused to meet the protesters’ demands and labeled those opposing the quota as “razakar,” a term used for those who allegedly collaborated with the Pakistani army during the 1971 war.
“Pakistan High Commission advises students to take all possible precautions for their safety and stay away from protests,” the High Commission said in a statement. “Campus residents have been advised to stay in their hostel rooms.”
On Wednesday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar also spoke to the Pakistani High Commissioner in Bangladesh, Ambassador Syed Maruf, to inquire about the welfare of Pakistanis in Bangladesh.
“Maruf informed the Deputy Prime Minister about the security situation and the steps taken by the High Commission to ensure the welfare of Pakistanis in Bangladesh,” the statement said. “The embassy has opened a helpline for the convenience of people in distress.”
The protests turned violent this week when thousands of anti-quota protesters clashed with members of the student wing of the ruling Awami League party across the country. Six people, including at least three students, were killed during clashes on Tuesday, police said.
The protests are the first significant challenge to Hasina’s government since she secured a fourth consecutive term in January in an election boycotted by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).


Pakistan protests to Afghanistan over militant attack on cantonment, killing eight soldiers

Pakistan protests to Afghanistan over militant attack on cantonment, killing eight soldiers
Updated 17 July 2024
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Pakistan protests to Afghanistan over militant attack on cantonment, killing eight soldiers

Pakistan protests to Afghanistan over militant attack on cantonment, killing eight soldiers
  • Eight soldiers killed while blocking militants from entering military cantonment in Bannu on Monday
  • Two soldiers, five civilians killed in militant attack on Rural Health Center in Dera Ismail Khan on Tuesday

ISLAMABAD: The deputy head of mission at the embassy of Afghanistan in Islamabad was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today, Wednesday, to deliver Pakistan’s “strong demarche” over a militant attack at an army cantonment this week in which eight soldiers were killed, the foreign office said.

Ten soldiers and five civilians were killed this week in two separate attacks in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In the first attack on Monday, militants tried to enter a cantonment in the city of Bannu and a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into a perimeter wall. Eight soldiers and ten militants were killed, the army said. 

In a second, separate, attack early Tuesday, five civilians, including two female health workers and two children, were killed in an attack on a health facility in the Dera Ismail Khan district. Two soldiers and all three militants were killed in subsequent clashes, the military said.

Pakistan has seen a surge in militancy in recent months that it blames on militants operating out of Afghanistan. Kabul denies that it allows its territory to be used by insurgents and says Pakistan’s security woes are a domestic issue.

“The terrorist attack [in Bannu] was carried out by the Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group based in Afghanistan. Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group, along with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians and law enforcement officials in multiple terrorist attacks inside Pakistan,” the foreign office said in a statement.

“The Interim Afghan Government was urged to fully investigate and take immediate, robust and effective action against the perpetrators of the Bannu attack and to prevent the recurrence of such attacks against Pakistan using the territory of Afghanistan.”

The foreign office said it had “serious concerns” about the presence of militant outfits inside Afghanistan that continued to threaten Pakistan’s security. 

“Such incidents also go against the spirit of bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries,” the foreign office added. “The Bannu Cantonment attack is yet another reminder of the serious threat posed by terrorism to regional peace and security. Pakistan reiterates the call for decisive action against terrorism and remains steadfast in its commitment to combat this menace and to uphold its security against all threats.”


Pakistan issues glacial lake flood warnings for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan regions

Pakistan issues glacial lake flood warnings for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan regions
Updated 17 July 2024
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Pakistan issues glacial lake flood warnings for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan regions

Pakistan issues glacial lake flood warnings for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan regions
  • Floods in 2022, brought by record monsoon rains and glacial melt, killed over 1,700 people and impacted 33 million people
  • NDMA recently launched Pak NDMA Disaster Alert application to provide timely alerts, adviseries and guidelines

ISLAMABAD: The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Wednesday issued a glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF) alert for Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the mountainous northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Floods in 2022, brought by record monsoon rains and glacial melt in northern mountains, killed over 1,700 people and impacted 33 million people out of a population of 220 million, sweeping away homes, vehicles, crops and livestock in damage estimated at $30 billion. 

“National Emergencies Operation Center (NEOC) has warned of possible glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) in the mountainous regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan due to rising temperatures and expected heavy rainfall from July 17 to 23, 2024,” the NDMA said in a statement. “This may lead to increased water levels in local rivers and streams, landslides, and flash flooding.”

The disaster management authority said it had directed the Provincial Disaster Management Authority of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as the Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority to coordinate with relevant departments to ensure necessary preparations and emergency response measures. 

“Departments have been instructed to alert local communities, tourists, and travelers in the areas at risk and to avoid unnecessary travel. Mock drills should also be conducted in vulnerable areas to ensure timely evacuation and safety of people,” NDMA said. 

The authority recently launched the Pak NDMA Disaster Alert application, available on Google Play Store and iOS App Store, to provide timely alerts, adviseries and guidelines to the public.


Yaum-e-Ashura processions held across Pakistan amid heightened security

Yaum-e-Ashura processions held across Pakistan amid heightened security
Updated 17 July 2024
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Yaum-e-Ashura processions held across Pakistan amid heightened security

Yaum-e-Ashura processions held across Pakistan amid heightened security
  • Ashura is tenth day of Muharram when Shiite Muslims commemorate death of Imam Hussein
  • Interior ministry had approved army deployment across Pakistan to ensure peace during Muharram

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of thousands of mourners took out processions across Pakistan on Wednesday amid heightened security measures to observe Yaum-e-Ashura, the holiest day on the Shiite Muslim calendar.

Yaum-e-Ashura is the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram when Shiite Muslims commemorate the seventh-century battlefield death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), in Karbala, Iraq. 

“The martyrdom of Imam Hussain teaches us to stand firm against oppression,” Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in a message to the public. “In today’s world, we witness the people of Palestine enduring immense hardships and making immense sacrifices for a great cause. Similarly people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir are also suffering the atrocities of the oppressive forces.”

Shiite Muslims take part in a religious procession to mark Ashura on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram, in Lahore on July 17, 2024. (AFP)

President Asif Ali Zardari said the martyrs of Karbala had given a lesson to the Muslim Ummah “to remain steadfast in the face of all kinds of brutalities and raise their voice against all evils,” state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

The interior ministry had approved army deployment across the country to ensure peace and security during the holy month of Muharram and had banned the use of drones during processions and gatherings.

The main procession in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore set out from Nisar Haveli in the Mohalla Chillah Bibian on Wednesday morning and will culminate at the Karbala Ghamay Shah Imambargah.

In Karachi, the main procession departed from Nishtar Park and will conclude at the Hussainiya Iraniyan Imam Bargah.

Shiite Muslims shout anti-Israel slogans during a religious procession on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Muharram, in Karachi on July 16, 2024. (AFP)

In Peshawar, the main procession began from GT Road and passed through Mukri Bazaar service road and is expected to conclude at 4pm, according to the City Traffic Police.